The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman is a guide to understanding how to love your partner better and create a deeper emotional connection in your relationship. This book helps you learn to speak your partner’s love language, providing the tools to effect the right kind of change in your relationship that will allow it to last.
All relationships, even the best ones, will experience a decline in the euphoria of first falling in love. The period of being in love can last up to two years. The loss of that love high may leave some feeling like they’ve failed or the relationship was not meant to be. But maintaining a loving relationship is vastly different than falling in love.
We each have a love tank. Our love tanks are similar to gas tanks, in that, we operate best in a relationship when our love tanks are full.
When you are falling in love, the object of your affection is all consuming. You want to stay in that warm and exciting space with them, and you go out of your way to do things for them or support them. You do this so they know you are falling for them and want them to be in your life. When you are falling in love, everything the other person does feels magical and fills your tank.
When that initial burst of love begins to fade, you and your partner revert to the people you were before the relationship. Only now, you must find a way to be you within the long-term relationship. The focus tends to turn from their happiness to your own, and your measure for it stems from your expectations of what a loving relationship should look like. This reality can leave you and them feeling unloved when those expectations aren’t met, draining your tanks.
The problem lies in the way you each understand love. There are five languages of love each person speaks: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Each language corresponds to the types of actions or behaviors that make someone feel the most loved.
Likely, you speak a different language than your partner. Communicating love through different languages is like trying to have a conversation in English with someone who only speaks Italian. Once you learn which language your partner speaks, you can start to address them through that language and fill up their love tanks.
Words of Affirmation are words or phrases you say to your partner to make them feel good about who they are and what they do. These words can be compliments, words of encouragement, remarks that express kindness, or those that signify your faith in them.
Quality Time is time dedicated solely for the purpose of being with your partner without distractions. A person with this language wants to simply be with their loved one. The activity is secondary to the actual act of being together. Time may mean actively engaging in meaningful conversation, participating in an activity that they like, even if you don’t, or having dinner together without watching TV or using electronic devices.
Receiving Gifts represents the act of giving a gift as a symbol of love. A gift equates to thought, and to a person with this love language, that thought is felt as love. The type of gift is less important than the effort to procure it and the desire to give it.
Acts of Service are things done to make life easier for your partner. Whether you act to remove a burden from their life, help out, or provide space for them to do something else, these acts of service will tell a partner with this language that they and their time are respected.
Physical Touch signifies a person who feels love most through intimate contact. Touches can be large or small and intimate or casual. The most important thing to learn about a partner who speaks this language is their specific preference for touch.
Determining your love language is not always easy. Figuring out which language your partner speaks can be even harder. There are a few clues that might help you understand you and your partner’s languages better.
Think about what you desire most from your partner or the ways in which you feel most loved.
Think about what makes you feel hurt or unloved.
Think about how you show love to your partner.
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Society is built around the idea that marriage is the ultimate culmination of love. This type of committed relationship feels necessary, even required for a happy life. Although there are many ways to be happy, many agree that a loving relationship is advantageous.
Keeping love alive is the topic of seminars, books, television, movies, and conversations with friends and family. Yet, the divorce rate highlights the lack of success many couples have in maintaining love after marriage.
If a long-term loving relationship is desired, learning how your partner understands and receives love is necessary. But first, you must understand the difference between falling in love and maintaining love.
The problem with many relationships is not that love has dissolved, but rather that love is misunderstood. When we understand that each person speaks in their own love language, we can start to communicate our love better.
Like spoken language, each of us has learned to speak a certain love language. Our native, or predominant, language of love stems from our childhoods and the influences of our parents and siblings. Others have developed their own languages based on their experiences with their parents or past relationships.
If we meet people with different languages but only communicate in our own, our ability to engage with and understand others is hindered.
The same is true for love. If we speak one love language and our partner speaks another, the same barriers will exist. We will never understand how to love one another properly.
If we want to be able to love another person successfully, **we need to learn...
Now that you understand that different ways of communicating love exist, you can determine whether you are speaking the right language in your relationship.
Think about the last time you did something out of love for your partner that didn’t receive the desired outcome of appreciation. What was it?
Our love tanks are the parts of us that represent our emotional need for love. The desire for love stems from a primary urge within us to fill our tanks.
When our love tanks are full, everything seems possible. The world seems more open and beautiful.
When our love tanks are empty, our worldview can become narrow and pessimistic.
We are animals in nature. Just as the lion has a primal urge to hunt, humans have a primal need to experience intimacy and affection. Committed relationships are sought to address that urge and keep our love tanks full forever.
But being in love is not the same thing as living with love.
When we fall in love, we are experiencing a temporary filling of our love tanks because of the love high, regardless of how it is delivered. In this early state, we feel euphoric and understood. We feel powerful and confident.
But the in-love experience is short-lived. As the euphoria wanes, our primal urge for our specific brand of love will reemerge. We will desire to receive love according to our language for it to remain over time.
When we stop feeling our particular love needs being met, our tanks will slowly drain. And a relationship with a foundation of empty tanks is not sustainable. When we feel our needs going unmet, our desire to meet the needs of our loved one diminishes. Empty tanks may lead to arguments, estrangement, and resentment.
Full tanks create an environment where love can be examined and curated for each partner’s needs.
Maintaining a full love tank is as important in a long-term relationship as having a full tank of gas is for operating a car. Without gas, our cars won’t run. We will be stranded on the side of the road. Likewise, with a full tank of love, we can venture forward on our journey with our partners unimpeded.
The word “love” has become a catchall for expressing our likes or appreciation of...
Think of your love meter as the gas gauge on your car’s dashboard.
When you imagine your relationship, visualize your love meter. Where does it sit between full and empty?
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We all enter long-term relationships via the emotions created during the first few weeks or months or years of the union. When we meet someone we find attractive or mesh with, we feel a spark inside. Like lightning, that spark electrifies our dormant heart. We begin to take in every word, action, or look as fuel for our tanks.
When we find the person we feel is “meant to be,” we become preoccupied with the feeling of love. All we want to do is swim in the sea of that new love---hugging, kissing, doing everything together. When we are without them, our thoughts of that person distract us from the realities of life.
We put on rose-colored glasses when we find love, and the world appears in that perfect hue until we are unable to remember what the world really looks like.
We assume this is how the world will look from now on with this person by our side. If we are old enough or experienced enough, we understand that love requires compromise and arguments will happen. But the person who is in love will assume that their love will conquer all difficulties that may come.
Yet, the rest of the world does not stop functioning because we are caught in our euphoric dream. Reality will butt back in. We all eventually return to the selves we were before we fell in love.
As we move farther into our relationship, the newness wears off. The little eccentricities or habits of the object of our affection, which once were so cute, start to show themselves as character traits that may or may not fit with our reality.
When reality starts to resurface, the work of love begins.
The feeling of being in love usually only lasts up to two years. Outside of the falling-in-love bubble lives responsibilities and basic human behaviors. If we can understand why love changes when the first blush of bliss fades, we can maintain a loving relationship.
You now know that losing the high of falling in love is universal and nothing to be ashamed of. From this position, you can examine the ways in which love has been created or lost in your relationship.
Think about falling in love with your partner. Name one feeling or action by your partner you recognize as causing that sensation to dwindle?
For people whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, supportive and complementary words make them feel the most loved. Actions and physical intimacy are not as important as affirming words. Speaking this language to your partner means finding small or large ways of expressing approval and gratitude for who they are and what they do.
Affirming words are immensely useful when trying to express love.
Within the language of Words of Affirmation are varied dialects, meaning there are different categories of affirming words. Certain types of affirming words will strike different chords depending on the dialect your partner speaks. All Words of Affirmation are beneficial to one who speaks this language, but learning which particular dialect they speak will make the effort more fruitful.
Complimentary affirmations can be simple expressions of flattery or approval.
For instance, telling your partner they “have a great sense of style” or “you are proud of how they handled the rude server” gives them a spark of pride and assurance in who they are.
Likewise, telling your partner how thoughtful they are for picking up dinner or taking the trash out lets them know you see their efforts and appreciate them. When people feel as though their efforts are appreciated, they are likely to do more things to be appreciated for.
The point of affirming words is not to manipulate your partner. When you give your partner compliments, you are doing so because you know that is their love language. You know that through your words of respect, your partner will feel loved. If your partner feels loved, they are more likely to continue putting forth effort.
Instead, if you compliment your...
You know how it feels to receive a compliment or receive kindness from your partner. If you know your partner speaks the language of Words of Affirmation, imagine what it would feel like to them if you reversed the direction of those words.
What is one thing you would love for your partner to say to you?
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People with the love language of Quality Time require moments of undivided attention from their partners. Spending time together is good. But more than just physical proximity, this language thrives on intentional and focused communication without outside distractions. When you spend quality time with your partner, you are telling them they are important.
Everyone is busy. There is a limited amount of time in every day. You may work during the day and have children to look after in the evenings. You may be pulled in ten different directions daily. You may feel too tired at night to do anything but watch TV.
When time is set aside for the one you love, it may feel like a sacrifice. To the person with this love language, that sacrifice speaks volumes. You are giving your partner a dedicated part of yourself, which is a powerful symbol of love.
When a person with this love language does not receive dedicated time, the love tank begins to drain. Even if you say nice things or do nice things for your partner, they will never feel satisfied or truly loved.
If you don’t share quality time with your partner, they may come to resent the ways you spend your time.
(Shortform example: after a busy day, your partner may like to sit on the porch with a glass of wine. They ask you to join them each night, but you prefer jogging to wind down. As your partner sits alone on the porch each night as you jog, they may begin to resent your jogging. Their bad feelings won’t really be about jogging. They will simply see it as the thing that steals your time.)
Think about Mark and Andrea from the last chapter. Andrea actually appreciated the way Mark worked hard and provided for the family. But because it took time away from her and the children, she started to resent how much he worked. Andrea’s love language is Quality Time, and the lack of it drained her tank, regardless of all the good things Mark did.
Quality time doesn’t have to mean long hours or outlandish outings. **Simply giving your partner moments of...
It can be hard for couples to find time to be together. But if this aspect of the relationship is important to one or both of you, learning to find that time is essential.
What was the last activity you and your partner did that was solely geared toward quality time together?
You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts.” For the person with the love language of receiving gifts, that thought means more than anything else in the relationship.
A gift is a representation of thought. When you choose a gift for someone, you consider who they are and what they like. When you receive a gift, you know that person was thinking about you.
The act of obtaining and giving a gift symbolizes effort. The receiver of the gift feels love because that effort was made for them. It is not the size of the gift that matters. The gesture is everything.
Think about gifts you gave your parents as a child. Or, if you are a parent, think about how you feel when your child draws you a picture or makes you breakfast in bed. It warms the heart to feel that kind of love from them. It makes you feel special. You know their love is real and deep.
A gift can be considered a tangible symbol of love. The person with this language cherishes that symbol. Seeing it and feeling it reminds them of your love. If there is no tangible evidence of your love, your partner may have a hard time feeling it or believing in it.
The type of gift holds little importance.
If your partner speaks this love language, you may feel pressure to buy things all the time. Maybe you are not a natural gift giver or did not receive many gifts in your life. Learning to speak this love language is one of the easiest languages to master.
Everyone has given gifts to their loved ones. Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays all carry traditions of giving gifts. For these occasions, you likely had to...
The language of Acts of Service encompasses the act of one partner doing things for the other person. These actions are made without prompting and with the sole intention of pleasing the other. Whether an act of service makes life easier for your partner or simply fulfills a known desire, your partner’s tank will fill with love.
Acts of service may be large or small.
The main message of an act of service is forethought and consideration. The thought and action together, when done without resentment, signifies love to your partner.
Speaking the language of Acts of Service means performing the right acts for your partner. Not every act will be taken as an act of love. Discovering what your partner’s particular desires are will ensure the maximum benefit of your actions.
If the actions performed do not match the desired actions, your partner may feel unimpressed or annoyed with the effort spent on the wrong things. In turn, you may feel resentful that your efforts are not appreciated.
For instance, you may think doing chores or cleaning the house are helpful acts, but if your partner desires help with the children or paying the bills, your hard work may go unnoticed.
(Shortform suggestion: You must understand what makes your partner happy and put effort toward those endeavors. There are a few ways to determine what acts are the right acts for your partner.
Listen to the things your partner complains about.
It can be hard to know how to help you partner in a way they will appreciate. Learning what is important to them requires thought and understanding.
What is one thing your partner frequently complains about having to do around the house?
Physical touch is recognized by everyone for its bonding effects, but for the person with this love language, physical touch is the supreme representation of love. With consistent physical contact, this person’s love tank is full. Without touch, this person feels unloved, and the love tank begins to drain.
The act of touching is a surefire way of expressing emotional connection. You hug your friends when they are upset. You hug and kiss your children to show you love them. You cuddle and are physically intimate with your partner.
The stimulating effect of touch has a wide scope. The body holds tactile receptors throughout, which send signals to the brain through the nerves when activated. The brain transforms these signals into sensations.
If you or your partner speak this love language, the act of touching will communicate emotions more than mere words could do.
Each person has their own particular preferences for how they like to be touched. Although the body feels touch everywhere, certain places are more sensitive than others for some people.
Certain ways of being touched in certain places create more intense feelings of pleasure or pain.
You and your partner are the best judges of what types of touches are pleasurable or uncomfortable. **Listen to your partner’s feedback regarding...
Even if you or your partner does not speak the primary love language of Physical Touch, all relationships involve tactile intimacy. Now that you are thinking about the nature of touch, you can see how it plays a role in your relationship.
Beyond sexual intimacy, what is one way you recognize that your partner likes to be touched?
Understanding what love language you speak is just as important as knowing your partner’s language for the relationship to remain loving and happy. Even if your partner’s love tank is full, if yours is not, a happy relationship will be hard to maintain.
You may find it easy to identify your language and that of your partner. Or, you may feel you speak more than one, and narrowing it down to a primary language may be hard.
For instance, many people use the gauge of sexual desire to determine their primary language. For men, sexual desire is more biological. For women, sexual desire tends toward a more emotional sensation. Either origin may cause a person to assume their love language is or is not physical touch.
However, a strong libido does not necessarily indicate a preference for touch. If you or your partner is very sexually active but can take or leave other forms of touch, Physical Touch is not the primary love language. Likewise, if you or your spouse is not overly interested in sexual intimacy but feels love most through subtle touches, Physical Touch may be the primary language.
When you determine the correct love language and adjust behavior to speak that language accordingly, you will begin to understand how to fill each other’s tanks.
Determining your love language is sometimes as easy as looking back at your life and relationship.
1. Reflect on what you desire most or what makes you feel most loved.
What you frequently want from your partner represents your need to feel love in a particular way.
Now that you know a few ways to determine your language, let’s see if you can narrow it down to one or two.
What is something your partner did recently that made you feel loved more than usual? Which language does that action fall into?
At the basis of all other emotions within a relationship is the sensation of love. When you feel loved, you feel less pressure, less alone, less anxiety, more secure, more confident, and more important.
Self-worth is tied into feeling loved.
Deep love gives you poise and strength.
Love can ease anxiety about the future.
Love is not a solution, but a catalyst for an atmosphere created in which positive interactions are fostered.
Understanding and speaking your partner’s love language is an active choice to communicate love. Love is always possible in a relationship, even one with many problems or past difficulties, if each partner chooses to create it.
Keeping your partner secure and emotionally satisfied is possible with the love languages. If you want them to feel that way, you can make the choice to do so.
Love in a relationship is different than complacency or comfortable contentment. You can learn to adapt and live comfortably with anything in life. But if you want to experience real love, you and your partner will need full love tanks.
When both people...
If you’ve read this far, you probably believe it is important for your partner to feel loved. You probably want to be able to show them love in a significant way.
What do you assume your partner’s love language is?
Learning to speak each other’s love languages can have staggering effects on any relationship, even those on the brink of death.
Most relationships end because of negative patterns. Past hurts or resentments cloud our ability to love or feel loved.
Whatever the issues or patterns are, immediately learning and communicating through each other’s love languages can go a long way to rebuilding love in your relationship.
Love is a process. Even if you make the choice to speak your partner’s love language, they may not respond positively right away. The choice is yours to continue loving them and filling their tanks. As their tanks begin to fill, you may see improvement and progress. If not, at least you know you did everything you could to love them well.
After 10 years of criticism, mistreatment, and indifference from her husband, Glenn, Ann felt emotionally depleted and like her husband was her enemy. She thought she hated him, but she wasn’t ready to give up.
Ann learned about love tanks and the love languages. She understood that she couldn’t go back and erase the past years of pain. But she decided to try to learn to love Glenn again and make the choice to meet his emotional needs. Glenn, who always resisted therapy or the idea that he needed to work on anything, might or might not respond, but Ann would know she had made her choice at the end.
Ann’s biggest issue was the loss of time together. When they first fell in love, she and Glenn spent hours together talking or enjoying each other. But throughout their marriage, she began to feel like everything else in Glenn’s life was more important than...
Feeling the ending of a relationship approaching can be devastating and debilitating. Now that you understand the love languages, is there a way the negative patterns in your relationship can be improved?
What is a complaint your partner always brings up about you?
You and your partner are different, even if you have been together for a long time. As individuals, you bring your histories and baggage into your relationship. You have expectations for what you want or should receive from your partner. You have different ways of coping with anger and pain. You have different priorities.
When your love tank is full, you can meet your partner in a positive place to deal with your differences. With a full love tank, you are able to communicate better and appreciate each other.
With empty love tanks, the differences can turn to distance and resentment. An empty love tank can remove the desire to treat your partner with respect and compromise.
Divorce is prevalent in society, and the...
1. What if I can’t figure out my love language or my partner’s?
If the information in Chapter 9 doesn’t help you understand your language or your partner’s, consider the 5-week experiment. Monday through Friday, try speaking one of the languages consistently with your partner. Take Saturday and Sunday off.
Try a different language in each week. You may notice a stronger reaction in your partner one week than another. Whichever week they seem to respond more strongly may indicate which language they speak.
The week you were most comfortable speaking one of the languages or found the most joy in performing the specific acts can also speak to your preferred language.
2. Will my love language change over time?
Like any inherent part of our personalities, our preferred love language tends to be developed when we’re young and stays with us. However, changes could occur if your priorities change.
3. Do children speak a certain love language?
Yes! Children definitely have a preference for how they receive love the most, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need love in all ways. How children are loved will go a long way in determining how they love as adults and how they want to be loved.
Ensuring your child is loved through all languages will help build a well-rounded emotional individual.
Pay attention to how they behave with certain acts of love, and you can begin to understand what their primary language might be.
As a child grows older, their language is...
With the knowledge you’ve gained from this summary, let’s see how it might apply to your current circumstances.
Which love language do you believe best represents you and why?